Should we all start following the Allsvenskan?

February 3, 2010
Should we all start following the Allsvenskan?

This graph shows the number of different clubs who won the top division in the last decade – the 1999/2000 champions, right through to the 2008/09 champions.

You wouldn’t want to judge a league’s entertainment value solely based upon the number of sides who have won the league in the past ten seasons, but this would suggest the Premiership was the most predictable major league in Europe throughout the decade.

The fact that the Premiership is a ‘closed shop’ far from a revelation – but to see it trailing to Spain, Italy and Germany does put it in perspective. Read more »

Ivory Coast – a solid spine, but weak full-backs and lark of creative spark may be their downfall

February 3, 2010
Ivory Coast – a solid spine, but weak full-backs and lark of creative spark may be their downfall

The Ivory Coast will go into this year’s World Cup as ninth- favourites, the shortest-priced African side to ever go into a World Cup tournament. They play a fairly standard 4-3-3 system, with two wingers happy to rotate, attacking full-backs, and a solid, physical midfield. Read more »

Did Manchester United deliberately target Gael Clichy?

February 2, 2010
Did Manchester United deliberately target Gael Clichy?

Gael Clichy’s form over the past 18 months has been a real cause for concern for Arsenal fans. When Ashley Cole left for Chelsea in 2006, the consensus amongst Gooners was that Arsenal hadn’t done too badly, because Clichy stepped into the first team and was playing consistently well. And indeed, better than Cole was playing for Chelsea. But Cole’s return to world-class status seems to have coincided with Gael Clichy’s downfall. He had a poor 2008/09 and hasn’t played much better this season. Read more »

John Terry hits back with a superb all-round display for Chelsea at Burnley

February 1, 2010
John Terry hits back with a superb all-round display for Chelsea at Burnley

After the whole John Terry / Wayne Bridge / Vanessa Perroncel storm of last week, this was exactly what the current England captain needed. Chelsea didn’t play well at Turf Moor, and it was a poor game overall, but Terry turned in a terrific performance.

In a way, it was precisely the kind of game Terry would have wanted – scrappy, low-key, and against a side which would cause him many problems defensively. Read more »

Darren Fletcher on his best behaviour after Arsene Wenger criticism

February 1, 2010

After Arsenal’s 1-2 defeat at Old Trafford earlier in the season, Arsene Wenger made a point of singling out Darren Fletcher for criticism:

“There are other points that, for me, are more urgent – players who play only to make fouls, who make repeated fouls and are never punished. They get out of the game without a yellow card, but I think it is more anti-football than a player who did what Eduardo did (dived to win a penalty against Celtic). Read more »

Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United: Wayne Rooney brilliantly demonstrates the value of a ‘false nine’

January 31, 2010
Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United: Wayne Rooney brilliantly demonstrates the value of a ‘false nine’

It’s one thing to go out, play to your manager’s orders and get results. It’s an entirely separate thing to go out and score great goals.

And when those two come together, you have perfect football. This doesn’t happen too often – playing to your manager’s orders is often associated with defensive, negative football – the term “X came with a gameplan” has been used in the past few years as a euphemism for “X played for a draw and didn’t look to score themselves”. And great goals are often moments of individual brilliance – a mazy run ending in a fine finish, or a powerful shot from miles out that deceives the goalkeeper and goes in. Read more »

Christopher Samba – a rock at the heart of the Blackburn defence

January 31, 2010

If Sam Allardyce had a footballer-making machine, and wanted to create a centre-back, you get the feeling he’d produce something along the lines of Christopher Samba. 6′4, brave, consistent, unfussy and completely dominant in the air.

Quietly, Blackburn have crept into the top half of the table, although they do have a very bad defensive record. They do depend heavily on Samba in that respect – the way the Blackburn defence self-destructed to concede six against Aston Villa when Samba was sent-off demonstrates this well. Read more »

League comparison #3: shooting and goals

January 30, 2010
League comparison #3: shooting and goals

In part one we looked at passing, in part two we looked at crossing. For the final instalment, we will look at what football is all about – goals.

Firstly, a simple statistic – the average number of goals per game in the five leagues:

The only major surprise here is that the Premiership is so far ahead of the other four leagues – and this is an anomoly – the Premiership is seeing a bizarrely high number of goals this season, as detailed here. Indeed, the average goals per game over previous seasons is generally around 2.6 – pretty much average for the other four leagues listed. Read more »

Teams of the Decade #11: Valencia 2001-04

January 29, 2010
Teams of the Decade #11: Valencia 2001-04

There’s some debate about who first used the 4-2-3-1 formation that became so popular across Europe in the 2000s. It probably started its development in the mid-90s, and some would point to Manchester United of 1994 as a forerunner, and perhaps Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side and Real Madrid under John Toshack have claims to this award as well. Read more »

How the 2000s changed tactics #7: Squad rotation

January 28, 2010
How the 2000s changed tactics #7: Squad rotation

Although this doesn’t directly concern on-field tactics, the concept of squad rotation has become almost mandatory for the top sides in Europe, and has a large impact on the team selection of the managers concerned. Read more »